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Dean's Diversity Champion Award

Dean's Diversity Champion Award - with a colorful medal on the side

The Dean’s Diversity Champions Award recognizes significant achievements of faculty and students toward developing a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.

2021-2022 Diversity Champions

M2 – Class of 2025

M3 – Class of 2024

M4 – Class of 2023

MD/PhD Program




M2 – Class of 2025

Erin McDaid

“Although Erin’s efforts exemplify many of the above qualities, Ut Prosim is the best way to succinctly describe her contributions to the community, both here in Roanoke, and across the nation. Here in Roanoke she made quick note of the lack of support at local nursing homes and began volunteering in their memory care unit weekly. As an individual who has faced food insecurity in the past, she has already joined forces with local organizations, and the Nutrition club on campus to work to help the community in these even more trying times. But her most significant contribution is to the greater pre health community, and her desire to see an increase in equity, inclusion, and diversity in the medical field. Erin is extremely passionate about mentorship and increasing access to resources for all individuals, but especially disadvantaged communities. As a part of the nationwide UnderDocs program, Erin provides mentorship to minority and first generation students on their premed journey. As founder of the DLMHS Alumni Mentorship Program, Erin facilitated mentors for every student who desired a mentor in the senior class. Perhaps even more noteworthy is her relentless dedication to put premed “advice” companies out of business. As they continue to charge upwards of thousands of dollars to prepare student medical school applications, which creates an inequitable playing field, Erin has volunteered her resources and own expertise to provide free advice to countless students, editing hundreds of personal statements at no charge, and providing one on one zoom interview prep for students all over the country. Through this work, she hopes to increase student understanding of the pre-med and medical school process, while allowing those who are historically sidelined access to invaluable materials and one on one assistance. She is currently working on expanding this to develop a larger network of those willing to provide counsel as volunteers and in service to the progression and advancement of the greater health community. Erin’s mission of service to the pre-health community is commendable and should be recognized, thank you for your consideration.” - Hong Ye

Paul Varghese

“Makes sure all members of the class feel welcomed, supported, and as though they belong to our class family.” - Randall Bisette

M3 – Class of 2024

Lauren “LB” Canary

“LB embodies everything (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion...) she advocates for the Roanoke community and her classmates. She deserves this award! All VTC students and future VTC students should strive to be like LB.” - Devra Asah

Brandon Ganjineh

“Brandon does a lot of amazing work with the VTCSOM DEI, BFC, and other groups to promote a more welcome environment to diverse students, as well as the equitable treatment.” - Pat D'Onofrio

“Brandon has been active in establishing and supporting the VT Chapter of the Medical Student Pride Alliance as co-president. He helped to coordinate a panel discussion on Transgender-inclusive OBGYN care and serves the Class of 2024 as a representative for VTC Diversity and Equity initiatives. He spends his free time looking for opportunities to support and elevate the LGBTQ+ community at VTC through research, social functions, and even his PBL presentations. Brandon's contributions to VTCSOM promote inclusivity in the student body, ensuring all feel welcome here.” - LB Canary

M4 – Class of 2023

Luma Abunimer

“Luma has spent a significant amount of her time while at VTC towards countless efforts so support and advocate for those of diverse and minority backgrounds. Her work with the Refugee and Immigrant Medical Association includes several programs and events that support and spread awareness of the refugee and immigrant population in Roanoke and their pressing needs. She did this by also directly volunteering within the community as well. She also has put much effort into promoting support and advocacy of minority groups within VTC itself. Finally, as a member of the Learning Environment Advocacy Committee, she also is constantly providing support for classmates by advocating for a safe learning environment.” - Sarah Yosief

Sarah Yosief

“Sarah should be recognized for her endless work dedicated to bringing issues of Black and Brown health disparities to our medical training and curriculum, including issues of Refugee, Immigrants and Black populations, especially in improving social determinants of health. Her work has been foundational to driving the creation and implementation of the InclusiveVTCSOM Task forces, which have served as a catalyst for curriculum re-examination and had rippling effects on the rest of VTC. She orchestrates responses to acute crises in both global and local domains, as well as sustained support of other students and organizations in expanding their missions of diversity and inclusion. Sarah is a major leader in the organization of inclusion advocacy efforts throughout her time at VTC. On a peer level, she uses her voice to uplift and highlight inequities in the classroom and clinical domains. As a woman of color, she risks the thankless aftermath and consequence of being further marginalized in our medical training system, yet never fails to step up when the time calls for a champion against hate, bigotry and discrimination. She has been called upon over and over to lead these efforts at VTC and Carilion, and responds with eager energy and a strategic mind every time.” - Luma Abunimer

MD/PhD Program

Kenneth Young

“Kenny has dedicated countless hours to promoting diversity on the campus of VTC. Purely existing in medicine as a Black LGBTQ clinician is paving the way for community members. However, Kenny has not stopped there. He has been intimately involved with diversity and inclusion initiatives at the school, including coordinating conversations in 2020-2021 for VTC unfinished. He has spent hours creating slide decks for LGBTQ inclusive clinical sciences topics. He also helped to coordinate a session for M2’s on transgender affirming healthcare. It is safe to say that Kenny’s endless contributions are making VTCSOM a more diverse and inclusive space. To achieve this while also being a standout student academically is an incredible achievement for which he deserves immense credit.” - LB Canary


Conner Blackwell

“As a resident, Dr. Blackwell spoke up to advocate that all faculty and residents participating in the OBGYN residency recruitment process undergo implicit bias training. This sparked a needed change and was implemented. Currently, all members of our interview committee watch a 30 minute video that has been vetted by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology focusing on implicit bias. As the PD, I was impressed that a resident felt passionate enough about this topic to not only speak out but to help develop a plan.” - Amanda Murchison

Shian McLeish

“In an effort to best recruit a diverse OBGYN residency class, Dr. McLeish (current PGY 2 resident) identified a weakness in the interview process and helped to develop a solution. In the past, we have always encouraged students to reach out to us with questions. Dr. McLeish pointed out that URM students may not feel comfortable reaching out. Her plan was to invite all URM students who interviewed with our program as well as current resident and faculty in our department who are underrepresented minorities to a zoom meeting after our program submitted our rank list but before the students had to submit their rank list. She felt that by reaching out and offering a safe space, students would be more likely to engage. We implemented this successfully this year. We had good attendance and 50% of our matched applicants this year self identified as an URM.” - Amanda Murchison


Sharon Williams

“Dr. Williams has been an effective DEI influencer in the Department of Surgery. Over years, she provided educational content that resulted in buy-in from individuals in leadership roles who were often farthest removed from the concepts of DEI. She assumed roles, both official and unofficial, that allowed her to impact hiring practices for both faculty and residents, resulting in quantifiable changes in the diversity of our program. Once they were here, she fostered inclusion by hosting support and networking events and by making herself approachable for people who identify with traditionally underrepresented groups. She also made herself approachable for those who want to promote DEI but don't fully understand the issues or how to be effective in doing so. She has been a quiet and kind but formidable advocate for DEI. She eliminated controversy, making everyone comfortable with open discussion and scrutiny of personal contribution to culture that needs to change.” - Katie Bower

Angelica Witcher

“Dr. Witcher has put in countless time into promoting diversity and equity at VTC. From my perspective, she has done this significantly through directly supporting minority studies and addressing their needs, such as by directly communicating with the rest of the administration and looking for feasible and appropriate solutions. She is not only constantly looking for areas of improvement, but also makes sure to look for feedback and ideas from the students and faculty/staff as well. Especially since the launch of InclusiveVTCSOM, Dr. Witcher has taken on several large tasks and projects to directly implement at VTC for promoting diversity at all levels and components of the institution.” - Sarah Yosief


Vianne Greek

“I am writing to nominate Vianne Greek for the Diversity Champion – Inclusion Award. I have known Vianne for several years and recommend her highly. Vianne is dedicated, task-oriented, efficient, and accurate. Vianne not only holds herself accountable but communicates effectively with others such that they too are attentive to detail and deadlines. While working with Vianne on various projects, I can trust her to collaboratively create a finished product better than anticipated. She recognizes gaps in administrative processes and/or student-centered needs and she then shines a light on gaps such that they are corrected. This is true in a variety of areas, but most notably, accessibility. To begin, Vianne completed the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) training in the fall of 2019 and the IAAP Certified Professional Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) course in the spring of 2022 to become a Certified Professional in Web Accessibility (CPWA), the highest certification attainable through IAAP. Upon completion of these intensive trainings she then applied the skills learned by including transcripts and captions on all Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) video materials on the school’s website. This action brought positive attention to the university by making VTCSOM activities and events more inclusive while building relationships with members of the community who are hard of hearing and/or blind. In regard to impact on university functioning or infrastructure, Virginia Tech seeks to be Web Content Accessibility (WCAG) compliant. Vianne is spearheading VTCSOM efforts in this realm. Along this process, she has used an inventive, creative, and problem-solving approach. To that end, for the compliance project she created a spreadsheet with all of VTCSOM web pages and then systematically worked to provide transcripts for each webpage containing videos. If the transcripts are short, she adds them directly on the webpage. However, for lengthy transcripts she modifies the webpage to include a user-friendly feature called an accordion. Lastly, for the externally facing Dean-hosted VTCSOM town halls, she creates full webpages which include the Dean’s PowerPoint slides directly on the webpage. She ensures these slides are accessible by adding alternate text (i.e., descriptive language) for each slide. This process requires a time-intensive exercise of caption editing before any of the webpage work can be addressed. Beyond the VTCSOM website, Vianne also ensures all social media efforts are accessible as well. Vianne’s efforts enhance the work of others in a variety of ways. First, she is a very willing and capable teacher. Anytime she can share her skills with colleagues, she does. She is patient as she teaches and constructive in her feedback. Second, her efforts are “infectious” such that other VTCSOM departments (e.g., admissions, academic counseling & enrichment services, diversity, equity & inclusion) emulate her efforts and attend more skillfully to accessibility. Lastly, she promotes CPACC training throughout VTCSOM. To date, due to her advocacy efforts, three people have become trained and others (including myself) are planning to do the training when schedules allow.” - Emily Holt Foerst

Courtney Powell

“Courtney has been instrumental in engaging the Roanoke Community and local leaders to not only bring awareness of our medical school but also our commitment to DEI. As a task force facilitator, she worked with local leaders and recommend changes to implement DEI. I am nominating her because of her commitment to the community and her ability to hold herself and others accountable. Her efforts have made a direct impact on our community because she goes above and beyond with a selfless attitude and can-do attitude. It is refreshing to work with her because she is passionate about the work she does. She focuses on the big picture and reaches out to new community leaders bringing them on board and continuing outreach activities.” - Danitza Backus

“Courtney Powell has gone above and beyond to create opportunities for expression of voices of color at VTCSOM. She has organized numerous events to provide students and faculty with opportunities to learn about African American history in Roanoke and SW Virginia. She has coordinated artwork of African American artists to be displayed at the school, and is supporting students who are hoping to bring even more creators of colors into our community. Through her efforts, VTCSOM has become a place of belonging for many who may not see themselves represented in medicine often.” - LB Canary